An outside observer could describe the Giant’s Head Freeride July 31 through Aug 1 in two possible ways.
On one hand, it is a longboard race that features mostly but not exclusive young men riding down the mountain on what appears to be nothing more than a long narrow piece of wood attached to four small wheels.
From top to bottom, they will have travelled 2.1 kilometres of paved road, turning 13 times on their way towards dropping 213 vertical metres from where they started to the finish line.
The race itself will attract about 100 racers from around North America, with about five to 10 coming from the local region.
By way of background, a longboard is a longer skateboard used primarily for downhill racing. Since longboards are longer than traditional skateboards, they are heavier. Therefore they generate more momentum, a substantial advantage in racing. Their greater length and different design elements such softer wheels also make them more suitable for turns comparable to the turns that surfers and snowboarders can make.
But these concrete aspects of the race only hint at its more sublime elements. The event appears to be foremost a dare, an attempt to antagonize the laws of physics.
In way, it is an act of defiance, a metaphysical middle finger to widely-held instincts and intuitions about what is safe and what is not.
As Giant’s Head Freeride organizer Andrew Monaghan says, “you need to be quite confident on a long-board” to participate in the race. “It is a very step hill,” he says. “Being able to control your speed is the number one priority.”
This ethos of the extraordinary shines through on sites like unkle.ca that host various electronic accounts of long-board races like the one coming to Summerland. They are in a word, hair-raising, in showing actual races as well as hints of their aftermath such as the sight of a young man, bloodied but defiant after a race.
Monaghan acknowledges that longboarding carries its risks, but notes that organizers are doing everything to make sure things go off without any major incidents.
“Safety is a priority concern and we have taken every precaution to make sure riders are safe,” he says, adding that each race has to wear a helmet and gloves.
For more info, check out www.giantsheadfreeride.com